From dine-in movie concepts to bowling, developers are increasingly opting to invest in entertainment destinations in an attempt to keep up with consumer demand, and no market better exemplifies this trend than the East Valley.
Several new entertainment projects and plans have popped up in recent months, including an Alamo Drafthouse-anchored complex in Tempe, a bowling concept in Gilbert, and a massive entertainment district near Ahwatukee in the Gila River Indian Community.
These new developments will compete for consumer dollars with other established entertainment brands that have hit the East Valley in recent years, from Top Golf in Gilbert to Main Event Entertainment, which has locations in Tempe and Gilbert.
“The key in retail today is to make sure there is an experience behind it (and to make sure it) is not run of the mill,” said Todd Folger, CBRE Retail Services first vice president.
With so many entertainment options, there is a risk that consumer dollars will be stretched thin. Success in the space largely depends on creating products that the market can support and, in that sense, not all retail is created equal.
“Entertainment isn’t a single thing, it’s many,” Mark Stapp, Fred E. Taylor professor of real estate at W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said via email.
For example, the market can support many restaurant and food options, but the same is not true for bowling alleys, which are more of a niche product.
“There is competition for every disposable dollar,” Stapp said. “People will pick the best experience – the market votes with its dollars, so the market will pick financial winners.”
That competition is heating up.
Tempe residents can expect to see plenty of construction in the year ahead at the busy intersection at Baseline and Rural Roads in Tempe as construction begins on The Collective, the 50,000-square-foot mixed-use development from DMB Partners.
The 5.2 acres of land involved in the project is east of the northeast corner of the intersection and recently sold for $3.2 million.
The forthcoming destination has already secured an anchor tenant in Alamo Drafthouse. The hip Austin-based movie theater chain currently has one Arizona location in Chandler and is seen as one of the originators of the all-in-one dinner, drinks and movie experience replicated by other chains like AMC and Harkins.
The Collective will also include other retail and restaurant options.
JLB Partners is also developing a 367-unit apartment complex named The Harper next door to the property. The overall concept falls in line with the “live, work, play” mantra that has turned into gospel in recent years among developers and city planners in the Valley who are attempting to create dense, walkable concepts.
“It is important in retail development that we tie projects into their suburban cores a little better and into their neighborhoods a little better, and we’ve been trying to do that with all of our projects,” said David Sellers, LGE Design Build president and CEO.
LGE Design Build is the general contractor on the The Collective.
The team behind the project has received positive feedback from meetings with the community, Sellers said.
Construction is already underway on The Collective, which has an approximate price tag of $15 million. Completion is expected in early 2018.
In Gilbert, Bowlmor AMF recently unveiled a new addition to its Bowlero brand at 1160 S. Gilbert Road. The bowling giant is keen on taking an advantage of the growing Gilbert market.
The brand offers a range of amenities that appeal to both children and adults, which makes sense in Gilbert. According to statistics from the town’s Department of Economic Development, 72.6 percent of Gilbert’s population is made up of “up and coming families” and 29.8 percent of the population is under the age of 18, the town’s largest single demographic age group.
“Gilbert has evolved into one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States and is ready for new entertainment options as the population grows,” said Samantha Bevacqua, director of brand management at Bowlmor AMF.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson was on hand to host the Bowlero’s grand opening in June. The former Brunswick XL location features a range of amenities geared toward children, including bumper cars, a laser tag arena, and – of course – bowling. There is also an arcade with the world’s largest Pac-Man game.
For parents and other adults, Bowlero offers laneside food and beverage service and HD video walls. The venue also features a full-service bar.
Further west, Gila River Indian Community recently made known its intention to develop a high-end entertainment district adjacent to the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino.
The Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, GRIC’s development arm, issued a request for qualifications in order to find a developer to work on the future mixed-use project. It will serve as a bridge of sorts between the area’s two most popular destinations, Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino and the Phoenix Premium Outlets.
Phase 1 of the project, as described in the RFQ, calls for the development of at least 68,000 interior square feet of restaurant, bar and entertainment as well as an outdoor patio and rooftop dining component. Traditional retail is absent from the request as the organization does not want to create competition for the existing outlets.
Additionally, the project contains plans to create an indoor/outdoor concert-style venue like Stage AE in Pittsburgh that can host music, comedy, mixed martial arts and other entertainment. The RFQ calls for a venue with an indoor capacity around 3,000 seats and an outdoor capacity of roughly 6,000 seats.
Full buildout of the entertainment district could eventually encompass up to 59 acres.
Analysis included with the RFQ pegs the investment in project after year one by GRIC and/or private developers at roughly $87 million. That will include development of the entertainment venue and the first phase of office, restaurant, retail and hotel space. By year 10, estimates the RFQ, the project will cost $245 million.
These numbers are only preliminary estimates and the real cost will likely not become clear until a developer and plan are selected, said Hunden Strategic Partners President Rob Hunden, who is advising WHPDA on the project.
Once again, walkability is key as Wild Horse Pass is keen on creating an enclosed entertainment district similar to nationally-renowned districts like Kansas City Power & Light District, Louisville’s 4th Street Live! and Charlotte’s NC Music Factory.
Replicating the success of those projects will be no easy feat, though, as those districts are in dense urban environments and Wild Horse Pass is still edge development, Stapp said.
However, Stapp noted that the area surrounding the Wild Horse Pass Casino will likely benefit from the Loop 202 expansion and become “less edge.”
“The (Loop 202 expansion) is going to change the dynamics of West Valley and Southeast Valley, and this property is well-located,” Stapp said.